By Jamie Greubel Poser, Olympic Bobsled Bronze Medalist | Jan. 05, 2016, 12:21 p.m. (ET)



(L-R) Cherrelle Garrett, Lauren Gibbs and Jamie Greubel Poser explore a Christmas market in Königssee, Germany.

Jamie Greubel Poser is a U.S. bobsled pilot who won bronze at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, as well as more than a dozen world cup medals, including three in the first three races this season. Following the Games, she married German bobsledder Christian Poser. Greubel Poser will take Team USA fans behind the scenes into the life of an elite bobsledder during the 2015-16 season.

As we travel the world representing Team USA, one of the best parts of the job – outside of competing – is getting a glimpse of the culture and traditions of the countries we visit. It isn’t often that we get time to explore, so when we actually do, it really is a treat.

This year my teammates Cherrelle Garrett, Lauren Gibbs and I had the special opportunity of exploring a Christmas market after a race in Königssee, Germany.

Christmas markets, or “Weinachtsmarkt” in German, are one of the biggest German traditions during the holiday season. They can be found in almost every city or town no matter how big or small. Wooden huts are set up in the town center, and vendors come to display and sell their specialty items. Streets are closed, lights are hung, and live music is often played. Fire pits are lit to warm guests and encourage them to stay out and celebrate despite the cold weather. You might have even gone to a German-inspired Christmas market right here in the United States; I know some cities have them.

It is such a festive atmosphere, the streets are buzzing with people, both locals and tourists alike. My teammates and I explored the market during the day to take it all in before we flew back home to the States for the holidays. One of the first things we noticed was all of the food vendors. These huts were almost impossible to ignore with the amazing smells coming from each stand. We found traditional bratwursts, waffles with different sweet spreads, an assortment of roasted and candied nuts, as well as roasted chestnuts. These were a must-try!

I have heard the Christmas song “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” a million times, but I have never seen or eaten a chestnut in my life! There they were, roasting, just like the song explained, on an open fire. They had a very interesting texture, soft almost like a cooked potato, with a nutty and slightly sweet taste. Not what I would have even guessed at all, but definitely worth the try!

Hot drinks are also a necessity when you are hanging out in the cold for a few hours. A very popular drink in Germany is called “Gluhwein” (pronounced “glue” “vine”). They sell this drink at the bobsled tracks in Germany to the diehard fans that brave the winter weather to cheer us on at our races. It comes in alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions, and it is a hot wine with cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices. It tastes fruity and sweet, almost like a red sangria. Other popular drinks are hot chocolate and coffee, all to warm you up on a cold winter day.

Besides the food vendors, there are lots of artists who sell handcrafted items at the markets. Many of the pieces are very unique and make great gifts for the holidays. We found Christmas ornaments, handmade dolls, bowls, spoons and cutting boards made from smooth olive wood, and horseshoes made into beautiful coat hangers, just to name a few.

Jamie Greubel Poser (center) with her family; from left: brother Eric, sister-in-law Audrey, sister Elizabeth, brother Andrew and cousins Chris and Jackie.

At the bigger Christmas markets there are lots of activities for kids as well. There are rides, petting zoos, small ice skating rinks, and even Santa makes an appearance and gives out candy. It is really a fun place for all ages, and it brings us back to the roots of the holidays – time with friends and family.

Since we are on the road for half of the year, it is great to be able to go home for the holidays. Spending time with family and friends is important and brings us the comfort of home after living out of suitcases. At home we enjoy the traditions that develop over the years and begin to have a special meaning to each of us. Some are passed down over generations, while others we start ourselves.

To start off the New Year, we have the amazing opportunity of racing on our home tracks in Lake Placid, New York, and Park City, Utah. I learned how to drive on these tracks, and they hold a special place in my heart. It feels so good to stay in the U.S. for a few more weeks, and to be on home ice!

You are all invited to come out and cheer on Team USA! We race this week (Jan. 8-9) in Lake Placid and next week (Jan. 15-16) in Park City. Check out our team website for more details. Hope to see you at the track!